Le Black Madonna

Rockamadour sits atop a gorge on the Dordogne and looks like it’s been carved out of the hillside, from afar it’s a really quite beautiful looking village.

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The sanctuary above is known as the sanctuary of the blessed mary (also the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame) and within it resides the wooden black madonna said to have been carved by Saint Amator (Amadour) himself. Some will tell you Rocamadour is named after Saint Amadour, others say it’s named after a goats milk cheese, I prefer the saint version.

Despite the lower part of the village being a massive tourist trap the sanctuary at the top is still very much a religious place, so much so that at the entrance to the sanctuary they have various bits of cloth you can use to cover yourself up with if you want to go and view the sanctuary, if you are wearing very short shorts, a vest or crop top then it’s required to cover up, religious folk still make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary.

As you an see from the village below, the sanctuary is quite a way up.

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Allegedly, if you say a prayer on each of the steps on the way up to the sanctuary you will see or behold a miracle, looking at some of the people climbing the stairs it was a miracle in itself they made it to the top without heart failure.

The sanctuary from an architecture point of view is really quite stunning, as i’ve mentioned before, i’m not religious in the  slightest but I do appreciate the architecture.

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I didn’t find the the wooden black madonna, to be honest, I didn’t really look, I did think the light coming through above the altar was quite special so I took a picture.

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The remainder of our time at Rocamadour involved walking up over the ramparts and admiring the view across the gorge, we also went on a funicular lift which Ian really enjoyed, he’s a lift engineer by trade and to him I guess this was a kind of lift porn, you can see Ian admiring the lift on the right below…

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We left Rocamadour and headed off in search of food, we stopped at an auberge that Ian and Lindi are good friends with the owners of, Auberge de forges, well worth a visit, great food, great location and fantastic company!

The following day we got up and headed off for a day of canoeing with Captain John, another of Lindi and Ian’s friends who’s made a life for themselves in France.

Captain John has spent a lot of time at sea, a proper old salty sea dog, i’d never met anyone who had a pet octopus that lived in a bucket on the side of boat or rescued a crow that became a best friend but, since meeting John thats all changed!

Here we all are on the Dordogne executing a safety manoeuvre whilst drinking beer, thats how good we got a canoeing, see if you can spot captain John!

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We covered a fair distance, it took us about 6 hours to get from start to finish with a minor stop for lunch en route. Lolly’s parents have often said they’d like to do the canoe trip but never got round to it, i’m really glad we all got to do it together, a really great day out..

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Once we got back to base camp we visited Captain John and Vals place, they essentially bought a barn and a hill 12 years ago, shortly after they paid their money the barn fell down and they have been working on building a house ever since, they currently live in a caravan on the lower part of their hill, the upside of the barn collapsing is John has all the stone, timber and roofing slate he’ll ever need to build their home, they are a lovely couple are John and Val, the kind of people you feel you’ve known forever but only just met, I hope we see them again sometime, Val makes awesome soup too!

We returned to chateau coups and settled in for the night, some booze and food coupled with a night shot of the van.

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Our final day with the Coups involved some proper sunbathing on Lollys part while I fannied about with the van getting things packed ready for our departure, below is a picture of Chateau Coups, it’s a lovely place in a lovely spot and Ian and Lindi have worked really hard to make it what it is.

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It’s normally quite quiet round these parts but all sorts went on when we were there, power cuts, thunder storms, a sighting of the milky way and a herd of cows being moved down the lane, Ian says it’s the busiest he’s seen!

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Before we left we decide on a little bike ride down to Hautfauge, along the way we came across a lovely church and a small war memorial, we also stopped at a little restaurant in the village that all the local workmen visit for the plat du jour, Lolly got harassed by a wasp and was running about the place much to the workmens amusement…

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Ian and Lindi wanted to show us Tour De Merle, a quite awesome ruin about 10km from their place.

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Annoyingly it was shut when we got there, when it’s open you can take a walk round, next time!

We had intended to be on the road by 17.00, it was now about 18.00 so we decided to go and get some food in Argentat, there is a nice little spot on the Dordogne that has a number of cafes, bistros and restaurants on the quay side.

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This was our view whilst munching a lovely meal on the quayside. We thanked Ian and Lindi for letting us take over their house for the last few days and headed off to Sanguinet, it was dark and the roads were badly lit so we swerved off to an aire in Brive for the night.

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At sunrise we grabbed a brew and made our way to the sea..

We’re now in the last week of our travels, we’ve covered 1418 miles in about 14 days and i’m currently trying to figure out how to give our fridge a 12 volt feed direct from the PMS unit as opposed to from the leisure battery it’s currently hard wired to, the problem i’m facing is the fridge draws more voltage than the PMS supplies as a charge to the battery when hooked up, the result is after a couple of days the fridge packs up as it’s drained the leisure battery and the ice melts and the charge the PMS gives can’t keep up with the fridges requirement, if I can find a way to send 12volts to the fridge via the PMS when hooked up to 240volts that would mean the battery would receive a top up charge from the PMS without being drained by the fridge,  i’ll work it our when I get home, for now I have the 7 stage charger I brought with me pumping the battery with more voltage than the PMS, it’s enough to charge the battery and sustain the fridge, not ideal but it works for now which means Lolly will have G&T’s!

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